Rhode Island

Best of Rhode Island | 2018 Editors’ Choice Awards

Planning a Rhode Island vacation, day trip, or getaway? From dining and lodging to attractions that are well worth the drive, here are nearly 30 of our editors’ picks for the best of Rhode Island.

By Yankee Magazine

Apr 16 2018

The Ocean House

2018 Best of Rhode Island | Ocean House

Photo Credit : Courtesy of Ocean House

Planning a Rhode Island vacation, day trip, or getaway? From dining and lodging to attractions that are well worth the drive, here are nearly 30 of our editors’ picks for the best of Rhode Island.


Best of Rhode Island | 2018 Editors' Choice Awards
2018 Best of Rhode Island | North Light
Photo Credit : Michael Melford - Block Island Tourism

BEST CINEMA OR DRIVE IN: Cable Car Cinema & Café

Founded more than four decades ago in a repurposed truck garage, this art-house theater coaxes audience members away from their streaming devices and into a fun little realm where movie­going remains an active, shared experience. It’s not just the lure of bottomless popcorn and a menu of coffee drinks, baked goods, sandwiches, and beer that keeps Cable Car’s 100 or so seats filled. It’s also the thought-provoking handpicked flicks and the conversations they inspire (sometimes with even their creators). If it’s date night, arrive early to claim a loveseat. 401-272-3970


Buckle up. Don’t tailgate. Watch for turtles. A few simple rules—and the willingness of at least one person in your party to pedal—are all that’s required for an all-ages rail biking adventure. Tandem and quad options can be linked, so even extended families can share the camaraderie of a six-mile outing along Narragansett Bay. Riders glide along Old Colony Railway tracks, laid in the 1860s but reborn as a recreational attraction thanks in part to a Korean soap opera: Company founder Mary-Joy Lu brought these South Korean rail bikes to America after spotting them onscreen. 877-833-8588 

FARMERS’ MARKET: Hope Street Farmers’ Market

Homegrown and handmade join forces each Saturday from May through October, transforming tree-shaded Lippitt Memorial Park into the capital’s liveliest shopping destination. More than 40 farm, fish, and gourmet food businesses aren’t the only ones popping up perky white, red, and blue tents and arranging captivating displays: At the concurrent Providence Artisans Market, juried participants show off their freshest fashions and one-of-a-kind gifts. Unfurl a blanket, and enjoy a food-truck lunch, a jar of Fully Rooted’s cold-pressed carrot-apple juice, live music, and Tricycle Ice Cream’s latest cookie sandwich sensation. 


No thief’s done more for America than that sneaky Samuel Slater. The English textile worker illegally crossed the pond with a headful of knowledge, and the water-powered cotton mill he built in 1793 is the centerpiece of this namesake complex in Pawtucket. Engaging tours of the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution introduce visitors to the ingenious machinery and the families that powered a new era. You’ll see the 1758 cottage where Slater spent his first night in Pawtucket, and the 1810 Wilkinson Mill with its rare working waterwheel, too. The sounds and vibrations of old will transport you. 401-725-8638 


This Richard Morris Hunt–designed mansion has quietly reopened for by-reservation-only tours of a restoration in progress. Gone are the clutter of antiques and the overembellished stories of the “Belcourt Castle” days: Alex and Ani founder Carolyn Rafaelian purchased the property in 2012 with the intent of returning it to its 1895 appearance and sharing it with the public. Now’s a rare chance to witness and support a large-scale preservation effort, while hearing well-researched tales of the estate’s original occupants—including Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont’s pampered horses. 


Some of the most stirring musical performances in Rhode Island don’t take place in any concert hall. They’re sung—sometimes in Italian and quite often for an audience of only two—beneath the acoustically magical bridges that span the Woonasquatucket River in the heart of Providence. Authentic gondolas and their striped shirt–wearing, serenading gondoliers are as much a part of this city’s allure as Venice’s. Bring a favorite beverage, request a meaningful song, and cherish the most romantic moments you’ll ever share with a third wheel. 401-421-8877 

SHORT HIKE: North Light
Block Island

If you’ve walked the Las Vegas Strip, you know that feeling that an attraction is closer than it turns out to be. From the parking lot near Settlers’ Rock on Block Island, North Light is clearly visible. And the half-mile trek through the Block Island National Wildlife Refuge doesn’t seem intimidating. Yet your hike over squishy sand and sea-polished stones will take twice as long as you anticipate. The exertion is worth it: The 1867 stone-block lighthouse, home to a seasonally operating museum, strikes a majestic pose above windswept dunes at land’s end. 401-466-3213 

SPECIALTY MUSEUM: Newport Car Museum

There isn’t a museum anywhere that polishes its treasures to a higher gloss. Gunther and Maggie Buerman consider the 50-plus American and imported autos in their collection “kinetic art,” and these coveted machines’ brightly lit, sharply designed new home shows them off like gleaming sculptures. Playful midcentury furnishings invite you to sit and contemplate masterpieces of style and horsepower, from ’50s finned beauties to some of the fastest cars on the planet. Video screens and racing simulators mesmerize even those too young to drive. 401-848-2277

WALKING TOUR: Rhode Island Red Food Tours’ Newport Neighborhood Tour

Newport’s rich culinary scene makes visitors wish for more meals in a day. Want to know where the locals go? Where history and food intertwine? What the cleverest chefs are up to, and which regional specialties are the most sublime? On these three-hour-plus walks, your guide is your foodie best friend, with all the inside intel. Nothing brings people together like food (and optional alcoholic beverages), and by the end of this seven-stop tasting odyssey, you’ll be laughing and clinking glasses and plotting return visits to hidden-gem restaurants. 866-736-6343 


Best of Rhode Island | 2018 Editors' Choice Awards
2018 Best of Rhode Island | Ocean House
Photo Credit : Courtesy of Ocean House


Unless you have a designer’s eye, you probably wouldn’t mix bright coastal hues, nautical accents, and zebra stripes. Yet this playful combination works exceedingly well at the Attwater—and from the moment you set bags down in the hotel’s chic sitting room, your journey will take equally unexpected but delightful turns. Walking distance from Newport’s attractions and happening spots, yet far enough from the waterfront scene to be peaceful, this Lark Hotels property has a staff that’ll impress you with breakfast tapas and baked treats, and they’re smarter than any smartphone. Trust them to help design a getaway that’s distinctly your own. 401-846-7444 


A 19th-century brick factory that churned out cloth for Civil War uniforms and, later, Fruit of the Loom underwear may seem an odd place to spend the night. But if you’re budget- and open-minded, NYLO’s modern, loftlike rooms will suit you well. Located three miles from T.F. Green Airport and 10 from downtown Providence, this pet-friendly hotel’s industrial walls and exposed ductwork add character to funky spaces such as a riverside restaurant and bar with a string-lit outdoor lounge. 401-734-4460 

UPSCALE CITY STAY: Renaissance Providence Downtown Hotel

Providence’s swankiest lodging property turns 90 this year—at least, on the outside. The grand marble-pillared exterior of the Renaissance went up in 1928, but the structure, designed as a Masonic temple, was left unfinished and empty for decades. Then in 2007, a monumental restoration project gave the city an instant landmark hotel; a recent facelift cemented the Renaissance Providence’s position at the top of the luxury scale. You’ll appreciate top-tier amenities such as plush bedding and all-day room service, but don’t sleep in: City highlights are right outside the door. 401-919-5000

FAMILY LODGING: Pleasant View Inn

Yes, Rhode Island is the Ocean State, but a family property directly on a private beach here is still a rarity. So forget that the rooms at the Pleasant View Inn aren’t fancy or huge. Stepping out the door and into the surf is the real luxury here. Just hearing the roll of waves throughout your stay is priceless, and a heated outdoor pool and an arcade will keep kids happy as clams (a three-meals-a-day restaurant and full bar are added stay-put conveniences). Book a balconied room, so you can unwind in the sea air after the littles’ bedtime. 401-348-8200 

HISTORIC INN: The Francis Malbone House

The tunnel that morally flexible shipping merchant Francis Malbone used to smuggle goods up to his house from Newport Harbor is long gone. But plenty of colonial details—wide-plank floors, moldings, fireplaces—have remained to make this 1760 inn the place to curl up for history buffs. Furnishings are antiques, but the Wi-Fi’s free and fast. And even the rooms in a sensitively designed addition offer a graceful sense of the past. Guests may not need their car for days, since the location is just that convenient—and there are enticing reasons to not wander far, including afternoon tea and a lush, secret courtyard. 401-846-0392 

Watch Hill

In a class all its own, Ocean House boasts architectural splendor, Atlantic views, and a level of service that should be experienced by everyone who appreciates superlatives. Drinks on the veranda are the perfect entrée to this Gilded Age hotel, meticulously rebuilt to preserve as many original 1868 features as possible. You won’t want to leave, and the perks of staying include every imaginable amenity, from private beach to nature-inspired spa to indoor saltwater lap pool. Learn from chefs, play croquet or squash, hear live music, savor made-to-order mini doughnuts—every activity is destined to linger in your sense memory. 401-584-7000

NEW HOTEL: East Island Reserve Hotel

Think a dense cluster of cute vacation cottages seems oh-so-’60s? This year-round resort updates the model for a generation that’s made Airbnb a hit. You’ll receive the entry code for your two-story “tiny house” before you arrive, so you can come and go on your own schedule—and your dog’s, if he has a reservation. Central air and full kitchens make extended stays comfortable. Even the hotel-style rooms in the main lodge feature kitchenettes. A new outdoor pool will make this second summer even cooler than the first. 401-685-0233

OCEANSIDE LODGING: Beach House Rooms at Castle Hill Inn

Hoist the shades. Gaze out the French doors at morning light shimmering on ocean waves. And know there’s nothing to rival your beachfront retreat. Situated on Castle Hill Inn’s private arc of sand, these airy king-bed rooms’ recently renovated bathrooms have two-person soaking tubs and showers. But don’t rush to conclude they’re only for kid-free couples, as galley kitchens and queen-size sofa beds make them equally ideal for family escapes. The crowning touch is access to the mansion inn’s beloved luxuries: afternoon tea, cocktails on the lawn, fine dining, and an intimate spa. 401-849-3800


Love takes time. No innkeepers know this better than Michael and Betsy Cardiff, who tumbled for each other in 1965 and were married … in 2014. Knowing how precious time away is for twosomes, they’ve created an adults-only B&B where pampering and privacy prevail. With its rough-cut stone walls, fireplace, and Jacuzzi for two, the Blue Grotto is the most sought-after room. Share an elaborate breakfast in bed, poolside, or in the dining room. When night falls, the garden-enshrouded hot tub is your own personal Eden. 401-596-1054


Best of Rhode Island | 2018 Editors' Choice Awards
2018 Best of Rhode Island | Chomp Kitchen and Drinks
Photo Credit : ChompKitchen and Drinks via Facebook


Even armed with a knife and fork, diners may not know quite how to attack these burger behemoths. The Mac & Cheeseburger erupts with molten-cheddar-pasta lava. Burgers showcasing pork dumplings and glazed salmon more than satisfy nontraditionalists. And nothing says “supersize” like the Stack: a 10-inch tower of beef, chicken, pork, house-made bacon, and cheeses. The lineup of craft beers is assembled with equal care. 401-289-2324 

CAFE: Sydney Providence

A tribute to Australia’s independent-coffeehouse culture, this newcomer turns usually ho-hum coffee shop fare on its head—try a Sapphire latte brewed with Blue Majik algae extract or the latest neon-shade lemonade. Home-baked goodies, seasonal salads, and dishes such as smoked salmon–topped avocado toast studded with watermelon radishes add even more color to your day. 401-648-4994 

CHOWDER: The Mooring

What makes the classic New England–style chowder at this waterside restaurant a standout? It’s perfectly creamy, spattered with paprika, and so loaded with potato cubes and tender, buttery bites of clam that your spoon faces a veritable obstacle course—in a word, perfection. But a dilemma awaits: Herby-sweet corn chowder swimming with Georges Bank scallops is also on offer, and it has just the right hint of lemon for dunking a “Bag of Doughnuts,” aka salty fritters embedded with lobster, crab, and shrimp. 401-846-2260

DINER: Jigger’s Diner
East Greenwich

Made from cornmeal stone-ground just up the road at the venerable Kenyon’s Grist Mill and doused with real maple syrup, the state’s best johnnycakes are just one of the dishes done right inside this 1950-vintage Worcester diner car. The specials supplement a voluminous menu, and portions are more than you bargained for. Classics from eggs Benedict to grilled cheese get grown-up makeovers, and there’s no question the milkshake-like coffee cabinets are authentically local. 401-884-6060


So enormous, so artful, these doughnuts look as if they were handcrafted for a “food that’ll blow your mind” photo shoot. But they were baked in the wee hours for devoted fans waiting in a line out the door (thankfully, it moves fast). Each month’s new menu of limited-edition delights features both crumbly, cake batter–style doughnuts and brioche dough creations that are surpassingly fluffy. Local collaborations make every morsel—and sip of coffee—an only-in-RI experience.

HOT DOGS: Mission

In a state known for hot dogs, Mission is a standout for its snappy, meaty, ground-in-house versions topped with all the classics, from kraut to chili to cheese. And of these the slaw dog, tucked into a purple and orange tangle of tart house-made coleslaw, is the ace that topples other contenders. Add an order of hand-cut fries, and you’ll still get out for less than 10 bucks in a city where affordable dining options are few. 401-619-5560


The decor is off the chain, the ’90s hip-hop beats are uncensored—and there’s nothing curbing chef Jason Timothy’s creativity. The Johnson & Wales grad and his partners finally have a permanent venue for the authentic and accessible street food that’s made their Laughing Gorilla Catering a smash. Revival Brewing founder Sean Larkin is among the owners, so expect hyperfresh beers for washing down diverse global treats such as Korean short ribs; black bean falafel; spicy, melty pork belly banh mi; and the best tacos in the state. 

SEAFOOD SHACK: Blount Clam Shack

If youwere designing a place worthy of the name “Home of the Giant Lobster Roll,” you’d situate it waterside, with boats coming and going. There’d be umbrella tables and a tent for shade. And the Adirondack chairs would be red, of course. Now that the setting’s perfect, let’s get to what really counts. At Warren’s Blount Clam Shack, “giant” is no exaggeration: A half pound of buttered or dill-mayo-dressed lobster gives grilled rolls their blimplike shape. The chowders and meaty clam strips here are colossal winners, too. Season’s over? Menu favorites remain available at the market across the street. 401-245-3210


Stationed overlooking Narragansett Bay’s famously vigorous waves, the enduring Coast Guard House is a year-round destination for all the sea-born delicacies Ocean State visitors crave. Raw clams and oysters are just-plucked. Calamari’s caught off Point Judith. Local lobster is served whole, heaped in a roll, or nestled inside cheesy mac or homemade ravioli. Bring a jacket even on warm summer days: If you’re lucky, you’ll land a table on the terrace or rooftop deck, where surf sounds and salty breezes will spike your thirst for cocktails mixed with regional spirits. 401-789-0700

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